Our execrable Education System

Long ago, Lat drew a cartoon. It compared a study on mosquitoes carried out by a foreign scholar and a Malaysian one.  The foreign scholar is shown with a stack of books (volumes 1 to 5).  The Malaysian scholar has a wafer-thin manuscript with an arrow that says: ‘Ini adalah nyamuk.’  Do you remember that? […]

Long ago, Lat drew a cartoon. It compared a study on mosquitoes carried out by a foreign scholar and a Malaysian one.  The foreign scholar is shown with a stack of books (volumes 1 to 5).  The Malaysian scholar has a wafer-thin manuscript with an arrow that says: ‘Ini adalah nyamuk.’  Do you remember that? Lat should come out of retirement!

That just about sums up the state of our schools.

Most of such institutions they call schools aren’t schools anymore.  They do not even resemble schools.

When I went to cast my votes on 5-O-9, I was directed to a secondary school at Kota Raja, Klang.  I had to wait 140 minutes. That gave me a lot of time to observe the surroundings.

The condition of that overcrowded, government-funded school was abysmal.

The toilets were bad. The classrooms were dusty and antiquated.  Cement rendering across the corridors were cracked and pitted. The metals rails were rusted. Horizontal metal braces had been welded into rusted uprights. These were strung across corridors. The welding was flimsy. Children could sit and fall. There were many sharp edges, on the ground and on the various metal appendages.  These posed  substantial risk of injury. You know how active children are.  I am a grandfather. When my grandchildren visit,  we ‘child-proof’ our home. So should these schools.  But they have no such thing.  An accident waiting to happen.

What was meant to pass for landscaping was dreadful. The grounds lacked water. There were no shady trees. Plants had wilted in dry, caked soil. The shrubbery across the tiny grounds was not surrounded by a lush lawn, but sat forlorn in dry, packed, dust-encrusted earth. I would never send my child to that school. No one should have to. It is time we rebuilt our schools.

Our education system used to produce world-class scholars. Our system was touted as one of the best. We also produced world athletes– take badminton for example.

After decades of ‘independence’ what is the standard of the national education system? It is anything but ‘independent.’ After decades of the previous regime’s ‘selective education,’ it is a mess.

It does not need buffing.  It does not need repair. It does not even need an overhaul. These are measures for a viable system. One cannot resurrect the dead.

What we need is to ‘replace’ the education system, not ‘repair’ it.

Replace how?

My suggestion?

Use the Finnish system. Each year, the World Economic Forum releases its Global Competitiveness Report.  Data collated for it is analysed for, among other things, a study of global education systems.  Finland routinely tops the list. Its education system is famous for having a ‘no banding’ system–all pupils, regardless of ability, are taught in the same class. As a result, the gap between the feeblest and the best pupils becomes–according to their measurement–the smallest in the world.

Imagine that!

For decades, our education system has been appalling. The good news? There is only one way to go–up!

We have, in the last few decades, produced graduates who are unable to analyse, who are incapable of independent thought, cannot write, and cannot reason–at the same level as their peers in developed nations.

The purpose of education, as one wise man said, is ‘to impart values’.  If we as teachers merely ‘impart facts,’ we fail our kids.  This is what the modern system of education has become.  It does not allow the child to develop their talents fully and carefully.

Our current system proceeds on the assumption all children must act and think uniformly. We are more interested in memorising, and then afterwards spewing out, rote-learnt facts.

If they do not think or act as our teachers tell them, we label them, ‘poor kids.’  ‘Poor in studies’.  ‘Playful’. ‘Not disciplined.’ ‘Disruptive.’ ‘Short attention span.’

All our As, Bs, Cs, Ds, Es and Fs are premised on a uniform system of measurement and testing.

In this great race for 14 As, all values are lost.

This has become a lost, lost world.

Our children and grandchildren are all lost in a maze of facts.

And then, tragically we also ‘lose’ our children.

We must come away from this ‘conformist’ trap.

It is time we seek a value-driven education.

We don’t need a nation full of automatons. It is all this ‘Saya menurut perintah’ rubbish that has gotten us into a state.  The civil servants do it.  The judges do it. The policemen do it.  So much so that Tun Mahathir remarked,‘I think I want to be the Education Minister.  I don’t think the county has any more educated people’.He said the system was ‘outdated’.

Reforming a broken system takes time.  As Tun Mahathir said on television in the few hours after 5-O-9, waving a piece of paper to millions of viewers, ‘Even writing this letter takes time.’

The moment Dr Mazslee said children ‘must play more in school’, should ‘not carry heavy bags’, and ‘teachers should only teach instead of doubling up as administrative staff,’ it became clear that he was going in the right direction.

He is trying to follow the world-renowned Finnish system.

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